"Binge viewing"? It's called "watching"

House of Cards promotional photo

When Netflix published the entire first season of the Americanized “House of Cards”, it was considered a radical act. Netflix has recognized how people recently have been “indulging” in “binge viewing” of old TV series, opiners said.

At the root of this phrase is a Puritanical attitude that television is supposed to be watched piecemeal, in dribs and drabs. You’re not supposed to watch an entire season at once, you heathen! You’re indulging! You’re binge viewing!

What nonsense.

Consider that Americans have watched on average 34 hours of television a week. In that context, how is spending a third of that watching a 13-part series “binging”?

Charles Dickens originally published his novels as serials. One chapter at a time was (written and) released. Only later were these assembled into novels. So if you spend the weekend reading A Tale of Two Cities, are you “binge reading”?

Let’s get over ourselves. Watching a lot of television is not new or extraordinary. For better or worse, it’s normal. What’s new is the ability to spend all that time on one series, instead of a dozen. Binging? Hardly. If there’s any binging happening, it’s Netflix’s bulk publishing of the entire series in one fell swoop. But I wouldn't call that binging either. I'd call it good business.

For the record, I think the new series is one of the best things on “television” – though it’s technically not television now, is it? (I also highly recommend the original UK miniseries, which is thoroughly entertaining, with that British flavor of perverse and devious darkness.)

Now please excuse me while I “binge” for several hours on my computer.